“Moments: beware the poetry of moments. Many of those moments are literary, remember. They have a past, a dreary past.” ~ Theodore Roethke, from “The Poet’s Business”

In the Japanese
tongue of the
mind’s eye one
two syllable word
tells of
the fringe of rain
clinging to the eaves
and of the grey-green
fronds of wild parsley. ~ Denise Levertov, “Grey Sparrow Addresses the Mind’s Ear”

Here are a few of Ohara Hale’s illustrations of Denise Levertov’s poems as part of a Brain Pickings collaboration with 92Y:

Listen to Denise Levertov read her poems:

Love Song

Your beauty, which I lost sight of once
for a long time, is long,
not symmetrical, and wears
the earth colors that make me see it.

A long beauty, what is that?
A song
that can be sung over and over,
long notes or long bones.

Love is a landscape the long mountains
define but don’t
shut off from the
unseeable distance.

In fall, in fall,
your trees stretch
their long arms in sleeves
of earth-red and

sky-yellow, a little
lop-sided. I take
long walks among them. The grapes
that need frost to ripen them

are amber and grow deep in the
hedge, half-concealed,
the way your beauty grows in long tendrils
half in darkness.

The ache of marriage:

The ache of marriage:

thigh and tongue, beloved,
are heavy with it,
it throbs in the teeth

We look for communion
and are turned away, beloved,
each and each

It is leviathan and we
in its belly
looking for joy, some joy
not to be known outside it

two by two in the ark of
the ache of it.

City Psalm

The killings continue, each second
pain and misfortune extend themselves
in the genetic chain, injustice is done knowingly, and the air
bears the dust of decayed hopes,
yet breathing those fumes, walking the thronged
pavements among crippled lives, jackhammers
raging, a parking lot painfully agleam
in the May sun, I have seen
not behind but within, within the
dull grief, blown grit, hideous
concrete facades, another grief, a gleam
as of dew, an abode of mercy,
have heard not behind but within noise
a humming that drifted into a quiet smile.
Nothing was changed, all was revealed otherwise;
not that horror was not, not that killings did not continue,
but that as if transparent all disclosed
an otherness that was blessed, that was bliss.
I saw Paradise in the dust of the street.

Open Secret

Perhaps one day I shall let myself
approach the mountain—
hear the streams which must flow down it,
lie in a flowering meadow, even
touch my hand to the snow.
Perhaps not. I have no longing to do so.
I have visited other mountain heights.
This one is not, I think, to be known
by close scrutiny, by touch of foot or hand
or entire outstretched body; not by any
familiarity of behavior, any acquaintance
with its geology or the scarring roads
humans have carved in its flanks.
This mountain’s power
lies in the open secret of its remote
apparition, silvery low-relief
coming and going moonlike at the horizon,
always loftier, lonelier, than I ever remember.

The Certainty

They have refined the means of destruction,
abstract science almost
visibly shining,
it is so highly polished. Immaterial weapons
no one could ever hold in their hands
streak across darkness, across great distances,
threading through mazes to arrive
at targets that are concepts—

But one ancient certainty
remains: war
means blood spilling from living bodies,
means severed limbs, blindness, terror,
means grief, agony, orphans, starvation,
prolonged misery, prolonged resentment and hatred and guilt,
means all of these multiplied, multiplied
means, death, death, death and death.

                   

Music by Hozier, “Take Me to Church”

Music by

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Enough said:

How is it I never made this word picture myself?

 

In 1994, Homer did that thing:

The Simpsons predicted the future many times over their 25-year history. Go here to see a bunch of these bizarre but true predictions, but the following is my favorite:

21 Times "The Simpsons" Bizarrely Predicted The Future

Season 6, Episode 5, “Sideshow Bob Roberts”

This penguin has more energy than I do:

R2D2 does Michael Jackson:

I hate when that happens . . .

And in this week’s edition: Immigration Reform, brought to you by the intolerant:

41,232 notes

Having a bad day? Think again . . .

Woke up very early (for me) and couldn’t get back to sleep. Anxiety over the state of the house and other things. So I read a book (good read, will do review soon), and then I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned until I couldn’t . . . move . . . I try to keep things in perspective . . .

Music by Ruby Friedman, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” (from “Justified”), love this version

It’s so difficult to describe depression to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling— that really hollowed-out feeling. ~ J.K. Rowling


“Strange how we decorate pain.
These ribbons, for instance,
and the small hard teardrops of blood.
Who are they for?
Do we think the dead care?” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Morning in the Burned House”

Wednesday afternoon. Rainy and cooler, 76 degrees.

Last night I had a very melancholy dream: I was working for the government contractor again, preparing a major proposal, but for some reason I was doing the writing/editing at home. At one point during the dream, I’m in a coffee bar, and I’m waiting for a male friend of mine to finish his conversation with his lover. While I am waiting, I begin to draw with colored chalk on one of the walls. I don’t askI just do. The image that I create is incredible, swooping colors and forms emerging from my fingertips, and I wonder where this talent came from.

While I’m drawing, my friend leaves, so I sit down on a bench and just stare at what I’ve created. I ask for a glass of wine . . .

Daniel Vasquez-Diaz Window in Bidasoa, Fuenterrabia 1918

“Window in Bidasoa, Fuenterrabia” (1918)
by Daniel Vasquez-Diaz

Return to home and the proposal . . . for some reason, I’m trying to take a shower so that I can go in to work before the deadline, but I can’t quite get the shower to work, and it’s because i have too much on my mind. This idea of being late for work frequently appears in my dreams. I’ve run into a man with whom I used to share a very deep love, and he tells me that he has remarried and has a child, and this is the last thing I am expecting. I ask him why he didn’t tell me before, and he says that he didn’t know how.

I tell him that I still have to finish one whole section of the proposal, and that I cannot deal with what he has said right now. I turn my back on him so that he cannot see how much he has hurt me, and then I get in the shower with all of my clothes on. By the time I get out, he has gone, and I know that I will never see him again. My mother comes in and asks me why I am taking so long.

When I awake, I’m trying to remember the name of the person in the company who prepared the budgets for the proposals. I can only remember his first name: William. He wasn’t in the dream at all, but somehow my mind has carried on with the proposal theme into waking. I begin the day with a heavy heart.

“All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life—where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.” ~ Miranda July, from It Chooses You

I won’t pretend that I’m doing better. I mean, I was, for a few days at least. But at this moment, the dining room table is covered with everything that I removed from the small, antique bookcase that sits in the corner of the living room. You see, the other day I decided to try to touch up some scratches on the dining room table . . . hours later, and I had touched up the finish on the coffee table, two end tables, the Bentwood rocker, another rocking chair, and the bookcase. I have no idea how any of this came about. I only know that I worked myself into a state of great pain.

Pierre Bonnard Landscape through a Window c1918

“Landscape through a Window” (c1918)
by Pierre Bonnard

So two days later, everything remains off the shelves and on the table, and I am no closer to having the house clean for Corey’s homecoming on Saturday. So here I sit, tired and depressed and completely unable to muster even a scintilla of energy. At least I have two more days . . .

At the moment, it’s raining, and thankfully, the temperature has dropped. But my mind is still on the dreams, on the chalk image and the heartbreaking words. I haven’t seen this man in decades. I have no idea as to where he is or what his life is like, so that he makes an appearance in my dreams and leaves me feeling devastated is, shall we say, unwelcome? But more, I am wishing that I actually had the artistic talent that I had in the dream, the ability to blend colors, create shapes, all without hesitation or thought.

I don’t know which part of the dream hurts more, and I wonder if other people dream this way: complete scenarios, emotions, colors, smells, tastes . . .

“But I won’t go there again.
We are all and only our distances
And when we touch that is what we touch.
Our messy shelves. Our sullen privations
And overabundance of lemons.
Our grief, our mountains and fields
And rivers of grief.” ~ Dan Chelotti, from “My Sparrow”

Other things: The air is so heavy, and while there is no mist, it feels that there should be one. Does that make sense? I don’t know . . .

Lately my nights are taking on a strange hue: the color of loneliness and ennui. I sit in bed and watch television. The dogs follow me from room to room, looking at me with anticipation as if I am going to do something incredibly exciting, and then sitting rather resolutely when I do not. Do you know how it feels to know that you have disappointed even your dogs? I am thankful for the company, but this loneliness will not lessen. This small house now has too many rooms.

My mother has been much on my mind, of late, and she pops up in my dreams constantly, even when she doesn’t fit the narrative, and that’s how it was in life as well. There is so much my mother never knew about me because at some point I stopped sharing, feeling that I would only receive scorn and negativity, as in, “why in god’s name would you do that?”—a comment I heard more than once in my life.

(c) Henrietta Garnett; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“A Venetian Window” (1926)
by Vanessa Bell

My mother would call and ask what I was doing, and I would tell her that I was on the computer. She would ask what I was doing on the computer, and I would use that catch-all word: writing, because to explain blogging would have been just too damned hard, and perhaps I didn’t give her credit, and perhaps she didn’t earn that credit, and perhaps I was too hard on her, and perhaps I learned hardness from her.

I only know that this year will be full of firsts, and I am not looking forward to any more of them: Olivia’s first birthday without her, my kids’ first birthdays without their Oma, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, and truly, I would like nothing more than to be far far away when those dates roll around, having no desire to meet them head on.

“Sorrow is so woven through us, so much a part of our souls, or at least any understanding of our souls that we are able to attain, that every experience is dyed with its color. This is why, even in moments of joy, part of that joy is the seams of ore that are our sorrow. They burn darkly and beautifully in the midst of joy, and they make joy the complete experience that it is. But they still burn.” ~ Christian Wiman, from My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

And it’s funny, but when my father appears in my dreams, he is just the same: quiet, unassuming, and I can deal with this visage of my father because it is so like the reality that was. But now, when my mother appears I do nothing but question. Why was she in that dream? What does it mean? Does it mean anything? Because, you see, she is different in the dreams, somehow. It’s hard to pinpoint it exactly. All I know is that sometimes she is so much more caring in my dreams, more concerned about my welfare, and it makes me wonder, really wonder, if she was this way in real life, and I just didn’t see it.

Too much . . . . . . . too much . . . . I am reminded of the Wordsworth poem, “The world is too much with us”:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—

Late and soon . . . . . . late and soon . . . . .

East Coast Window exhibited 1959 by Mary Potter 1900-1981

“East Coast Window” ()
by Mary Potter

My life is on a loop replay of literary quotes from things I read and studied so very many years ago. Funnily enough, I came across an older profile of myself in which I called myself a “Virginia poet,” and that really took me aback. How very pretentious of me. I write poetry so seldom now, having little to no faith in my abilities where verse is concerned. Needless to say, I changed the profile, but coming up with even the barest of descriptions for myself was taxing. I mean . . . . . . what am I?

Gah! I am too old to be doing this who am I crap.

“Some begin to talk,
to themselves, as do the mad;
some give their hearts to silence.” ~ Stephanie Strickland, from “The Red Virgin:  A Poem of Simone Weil”

I have said many times—in jest and not—that this world is purgatory, this here and now—this is the realm in which we are destined/doomed to work through our sins, resolve our issues. Again and again and again and again.

I feel as if I have spent my whole adult life to this point just waiting, waiting for life to begin. I will be able to do x once I have done y. I will be able to leave this area once my mother is no longer alive. I will be able to do to do . . . what??? It’s maddening, I tell you. How have I lived this long, done this much, and still have absolutely no idea as to who or what I am?

Konstantin Adreevich Somov View through a Window 1934

“View through a Window” (1934)
by Konstantin Andreevish Somov

I am (was?) a daughter, a mother, a spouse, an ex-spouse. For so many years I wanted to be someone’s sister, but that’s another story . . . I have been an editor, a staff writer for a weekly news insert, a newsroom supervisor, a proposal development specialist, a marketing director, a publications manager, and a sales manager. I have taught college, and I have taught middle school. I have managed staffs of 45, and staffs of 2. I have worked in a steak house and in a donut shop. I have been a nanny, a housekeeper, and a restaurant server. I have coordinated special events and memberships.

I have dated navy pilots, a devout catholic boy, a sociopathic liar, lawyers, and others. I married and divorced my best friend, and I married the man who has tried to make my dreams come true.

I have lost a daughter, a father, a mother, a woman who was like a mother, an uncle who was like a father, and many more.

What is the point of this litany? Well, you would think, wouldn’t you, that after all of this I might have a better idea of who and what I am, but I don’t. I really don’t, and part of me, a small part, envies those people who do one job their entire lives; I mean, for them, it seems that everything is clear cut. You work in factory x or business y. You get up, go to work, come home. You get raises and promotions along the way, and when someone asks you what you do, you have an answer.

“Wherever I turn, the black wave rushes down on me.” ~ Franz Kafka, from “Diaries”

Look. If I am to be honest, and that is what I am attempting to do, I would have to say that I have never been satisfied, even in my dream job of teaching English at ODU. While I was doing that, I kept thinking that I really needed to be in a doctoral program, and perhaps if I had followed through with that, I would still be teaching English at some college somewhere.

Richard Edward Miller Woman by a Window

“Woman by a Window” ()
by Richard Edward Miller

Follow through. Key words, those. I’m great at starting, at doing, but continuing? Going all the way to the end? As my dad used to say, “Shee-yit.” (I really miss hearing my dad say that. It was his one- word exclamation for just about anything, good and bad.)

Anyway, the point is . . . there is no point. I have reached and passed that milestone birthday, that one that signifies you are now definitely on the downswing of life, and I used to point out to Mari when we were adrift that May Sarton didn’t publish her first novel until she was in her 50s. Somehow, when you are in your 30s, that seems like all of the time in the world, that you have plenty of time to write your own verse.

When I presented Dead Poets Society to my literature classes, I was so finely attuned to Mr. Keating’s words, his query of the young boys: “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” I thought, then, that I did, indeed, have a verse.

Late and soon . . . . . . late and soon . . . . .

It is very late, and it is too soon, and I am no closer to any answers than when I typed the first word of this post. I am doing nothing more than decorating my pain. Atwood and Wordsworth, two worthy wordsmiths. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

More later. Peace.

Music by Lucius, “Go Home”

                   

Sailing on Lake Superior

Before us now the edge of the earth,
below us the nearly endless cold.
Around us nothing but shimmering
water,
the miles of empty and sparkling blue.

For a few hours, the sail fills on
toward infinity. Shadows of
our delicate bodies ebb and flow
across the deck of our delicate boat.

What if the beautiful days, the good
and pacific temperate moments,
weren’t just lovely, but everything?
What if I could let it fall away
in the wake, that ache to extract
meaning from vastness?

Let this suffice; the ease of thinking
it all goes on, whether we’re here
to see it or not. The splashing waves,
the suntipped gulls arcing across
the radiant world.

~ Kirsten Dierking

“Everyone needs a place. It shouldn’t be inside of someone else.” ~ Richard Siken, from “Detail of the Woods”

Rene Magritte Favorable Omens 1944

“Favorable Omens” (1944)
by René Magritte


Two for Tuesday: Richard Siken

I lost power yesterday during the storm, and didn’t realize until now that this did not post. Sorry.

I wanted to include one of my favorite Siken poems, “Scheherazade,” but I cannot get the spacing to format correctly, so I am using an image of the poem instead. (Sorry about the site comments images in top right.) Enjoy.

Rene Magritte Sheherazade c1950

“Sheherazade” (c1950)
by René Magritte

Scheherazade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                   

Rene Magritte Memory 1948 oil on canvas

“Memory” (1948, oil on canvas)
by René Magritte

A Primer For Small Weird Loves

1

The blond boy in the red trunks is holding your head underwater
because he is trying to kill you,
and you deserve it, you do, and you know this,
and you are ready to die in this swimming pool
because you wanted to touch his hands and lips and this means
your life is over anyway.
You’re in the eighth grade. You know these things.
You know how to ride a dirt bike, and you know how to do
long division,
and you know that a boy who likes boys is a dead boy, unless
he keeps his mouth shut, which is what you
didn’t do,
because you are weak and hollow and it doesn’t matter anymore.

2

A dark-haired man in a rented bungalow is licking the whiskey
from the back of your wrist.
He feels nothing,
keeps a knife in his pocket,
peels an apple right in front of you
while you tramp around a mustard-colored room
in your underwear
drinking Dutch beer from a green bottle.
After everything that was going to happen has happened
you ask only for the cab fare home
and realize you should have asked for more
because he couldn’t care less, either way.

3

The man on top of you is teaching you how to hate, sees you
as a piece of real estate,
just another fallow field lying underneath him
like a sacrifice.
He’s turning your back into a table so he doesn’t have to
eat off the floor, so he can get comfortable,
pressing against you until he fits, until he’s made a place for himself
inside you
The clock ticks from five to six. Kissing degenerates into biting.
So you get a kidney punch, a little blood in your urine.
It isn’t over yet, it’s just begun.

4

Says to himself
The boy’s no good. The boy is just no good.
but he takes you in his arms and pushes your flesh around
to see if you could ever be ugly to him.
You, the now familiar whipping boy, but you’re beautiful,
he can feel the dogs licking his heart.
Who gets the whip and who gets the hoops of flame?
He hits you and he hits you and he hits you.
Desire driving his hands right into your body.
Hush, my sweet. These tornadoes are for you.
You wanted to think of yourself as someone who did these kinds of things.
You wanted to be in love
and he happened to get in the way.

5

The green-eyed boy in the powder-blue t-shirt standing
next to you in the supermarket recoils as if hit,
repeatedly, by a lot of men, as if he has a history of it.
This is not your problem.
You have your own body to deal with.
The lamp by the bed is broken.
You are feeling things he’s no longer in touch with.
And everyone is speaking softly,
so as not to wake one another.
The wind knocks the heads of the flowers together.
Steam rises from every cup at every table at once.
Things happen all the time, things happen every minute
that have nothing to do with us.

6

So you say you want a deathbed scene, the knowledge that comes
before knowledge,
and you want it dirty.
And no one can ever figure out what you want,
and you won’t tell them,
and you realize the one person in the world who loves you
isn’t the one you thought it would be,
and you don’t trust him to love you in a way
you would enjoy.
And the boy who loves you the wrong way is filthy.
And the boy who loves you the wrong way keeps weakening.
You thought if you handed over your body
he’d do something interesting.

7

The stranger says there are no more couches and he will have to
sleep in your bed. You try to warn him, you tell him
you will want to get inside him, and ruin him,
but he doesn’t listen.
You do this, you do. You take the things you love
and tear them apart
or you pin them down with your body and pretend they’re yours.
So, you kiss him, and he doesn’t move, he doesn’t
pull away, and you keep on kissing him. And he hasn’t moved,
he’s frozen, and you’ve kissed him, and he’ll never
forgive you, and maybe now he’ll leave you alone

All images are by Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte.

                   

Music by Birdy, “All You Never Say”

“Unfortunately, I seem rather short of tears, so my sorrows have to stay inside me.” ~ Nadine Gordimer, Interview in The Guardian (9 March 2012)

Nadine Gordimer 1981 BBC

Nadine Gordimer (BBC, 1981)

Goodbye Nadine Gordimer
(November 12, 1923 – July 14, 2014)

I’m fairly certain that I learned of Gordimer through Mari. As usual, she was so right in her recommendations. Gordimer’s work was simply beautiful, her mastery of language enviable. In 1991, Gordimer wond the Nobel Prize for Literature. She was the first South African to win, and the first woman in 25 years to win. Gordimer was an outspoken opponent of apartheid, and as a result, three of her books were banned in her country. In 1991, Los Angeles Times correspondent Scott Kraft said of Gordimer that “this unassuming, strong-willed white woman has used her manual Hermes typewriter to give the world some of the most perceptive and uncompromising works of fiction ever written about her homeland, South Africa.” After his release from prison, Nelson Mandela asked to meet with Gordimer. Here is a link to Gordimer’s essay on Nelson Mandela, which appeared in the New Yorker in 2013.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the Nobel Laureate:

“I’m a candle flame that sways in currents of air you can’t see. You need to be the one who steadies me to burn.” (from The House Gun)

“At four in the afternoon the old moon bleeds radiance into the grey sky.” (from “My Father Leaves Home”)

“The truth isn’t always beauty, but the hunger for it is.” (from “A Bolter and the Invincible Summer”)

“Any writer of any worth at all hopes to play only a pocket-torch of light — and rarely, through genius, a sudden flambeau — into the bloody yet beautiful labyrinth of human experience, of being.” (from “Writing and Being,” Nobel Lecture, 1991)

“A desert is a place without expectation.” (from “Telling Times”)

“I never thought about the prize [Nobel] when I wrote. Writing is not a horse race.” (after learning that she had won in 1991)


Here are some links:

The Guardian’s obituary

The New York Times obituary

Obituary in The Telegraph

Online archive of short stories in The New Yorker

Art of Fiction No. 77, Paris Review (Fall 1979/Spring 1980)